Ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the country’s stars seem to be shinning very bright.
At the weekend, one of the country’s emerging stars, Favour Ofili, raced to a new African record of 22.75 seconds in the indoor 200 metres to the top prize at the SEC Indoor Championship at the Randal Tyson Indoor Centre in Fayetteville, Arkansas, U.S.
The 18-year-old broke the 22.80 seconds record set by Cote d’Ivoire’s Muriel Ahoure in 2009. She also entered the record books as the first Nigerian sprinter to break 23 seconds in the half-lap indoors.
Ofili showed glimpses of her talent at the last World Athletics Championships in Doha when she reached the semifinals in the 400 metres.
In Fayetteville, Arkansas, she served notice of what was to come when she ran a personal best of 23.15 seconds to qualify for Saturday’s final.
That performance pushed her to number five on the Nigerian all-time list and number six in Africa before she speed into the record books in the final to become number one in Nigeria and the African all-time list ahead.
Ofili’s feat has earned a ticket to the 200 metres of the Tokyo Olympics, which qualification standard is 22.80 seconds.
Can Ofili win a medal at the Olympics this year?
That will be decided by Bahamas’ Shaunae Miller Uibo and her rivals, Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain, Mujinga Kambundji of Switzerland, Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica and Daphne Schippers of Netherland.
Not only is Miller Uibo the reigning 400m Olympic champion, but she was also the fastest over 200m in 2019 – beating Dina Asher-Smith easily when they met. However, the schedule could work in Ofili’s favour as most of the top stars would have to run a 400m heat in the morning before doing the 200m final in the evening.
Even at that, Ofili has to do much more than she has already done to rank among the medals in Tokyo.
It was generally a good weekend of track and field for Nigerian athletes in the National Collegiate of Athletics Association (NCAA) with Ruth Usoro also surpassing the 14.32m standard for the triple jump after hopping, stepping and jumping to a new 14.38m Nigerian record, surpassing by 10cm the 14.28m she set early this month.
Usoro has not only become the first Nigerian woman to meet the qualification standard for the Olympics in the event but also the first Nigerian woman to meet the standard for both the triple and long jumps
after her 6.82m feats a couple of days ago saw her hit the mark for Tokyo.
Shot putter, Isaac Odugbesan was also in great form as he hauled a massive 20.50 metres personal best in the event to win at the 2021 Indoor. He is now the third Nigerian to throw 20m and more in the Shot Put indoors after Stephen Mozia and Chukwuebuka Enekwechi.